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Three UConn students awarded prestigious scholarship

By David Weigand
On March 25, 2014

Three UConn Students have been awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship, as part of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.
Established in 1986 and funded by the U.S. treasury, the scholarship awards high-achieving students, who seek positions as scientists, mathematicians and engineers, scholarships to enable them to become cutting-edge researchers. The scholarships exists, according to its website, to "alleviate a critical current and future shortage of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers" in the field.
These recipients are matriculated full-time students, mainly juniors and seniors, who "have outstanding potential and intend to pursue research careers in mathematics, the natural sciences, or engineering."
The recipients of the scholarships must be planning a career specifically in research, as the program's website makes plain. The award provides financial assistance for tuition and room and board of up to $7,500, a major boon for future researchers facing crippling student debt.
UConn students Peter Larson, Jr., Patrick Lenehan and Michael Cantara are recipients of this year's scholarship. All three ranked in the top quarter of their respective classes and showed considerable interest in research.
Peter Larson, Jr., a junior honors student from New Canaan, Conn., is studying "vaccinia viruses" and plans to go into "virology, viral vectors, or gene therapy" according to a UConn today article "Three UConn Students Named Goldwater Scholars." He is involved with the UConn Ballroom Dance team and has served on the Buckley-Shippee-Sylvie area council among other things, and is as an active firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician when at home.
Michael Cantara, a sophomore honors student from Barrington, R.I., was awarded the scholarship for his studies in particle physics. Cantara he has been granted security clearance by the Department of Defense due to his involvement in "a summer research experience at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, R.I." Michael said he's always wanted to understand the universe, and for him, physics provides that opportunity, being "an exciting mixture of mathematical derivation, computer programming, and logic."
Cantara says that he "couldn't really believe" he had won at first, calling his family "who were all on vacation in Florida." He says he is looking forward to pursuing a terminal degree and entering the world of research, for him a "truly rewarding and illuminating" vocation.
Patrick Lenehan, a junior honors student from Cheshire, Conn., and a member of UConn's men's basketball team, studies "proteins and the formation of centromeres and kinetochores in Dosophilia," according to UConn today. Lenehan said he's motivated by the prospect of a future research career, signaling an interest in pursuing cancer cures down the line. He said the nomination of students from UConn "speaks to the quality of the research taking place at the university," which he's proud to be a part of.
Barry Goldwater, a US soldier-turned-businessman-turned-senator, was a champion of conservatism with distinct libertarian tendencies in his lifetime. A man of varied interests, he was an amateur radio operator, airplane pilot and photographer in his day, according to Bart Barnes of the Washington Post. A presidential hopeful in his 30-year run as Arizona senator, Goldwater was an American icon who pushed for STEM education as the key to success as a nation. Congress established the program to memorialize the man and to bring prosperity and eminence to the country he so loved.
Jill Deans, the director of the Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships, says that the candidates this year "were amazing." She has held her office since 2007 and works with what she lauds as an able "faculty nominating committee" that selects top nominees to represent the school This year's result: three winners, a tremendous honor for UConn. Deans said the competition is fierce, as "the candidates can do everything right and still not win." She says these three, chosen out of four nominees to win the award, are all exemplary "researchers who do extracurriculars. They show how high the bar is. They're all really driven."

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